Tensions have been unusually high between NATO allies over the past week, despite coming together in Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of World War I. President Trump, who has been playing defense domestically over not attending a wreath laying ceremony for American soldiers that died during the first World War, found himself politically isolated among his national leader peers.
That isolation was, in part, intentional on the Trump administration’s part. As many national and regional leaders met at the home of French President Emmanuel Macron before heading to the Arc de Triomphe for the ceremony together, Trump was noticeably absent. He chose to arrive separately and alone, citing security protocols for the decision.
Those who are familiar with White House security precautions may recognize those protocols as a commonplace practice dictated by the Secret Service, rather than by the president himself — but Trump wasn’t the only leader that chose to arrive separately. The only other world leader to show up at the ceremony alone was Russian president Vladimir Putin; creating an unfortunate parallel for the American president that has seen his administration marred by accusations of inappropriate ties with the Kremlin dating back to the 2016 presidential election.
Things only went downhill for Trump from there, with Macron seemingly targeting Trump (and his rhetoric) in his prepared remarks. Macron seemed to take specific issue with Trump’s recent decision to embrace the moniker “nationalist” as well as his “America first” foreign policy.
“Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism,” Macron said. “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. By saying ‘our interests first; who cares about the others?’ we erase what a nation holds dearest, what gives it life, what makes it great, and what makes it essential — its moral values.”
Macron’s speech at the ceremony wasn’t the only time he put Trump’s foreign policy in his crosshairs. While addressing the media, Macron once again called for the establishment of a “true European army” that would defend the continent without American support. He then listed the nations he feels represent the largest threats to European sovereignty.
“We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America,” Macron stated plainly.
President Trump responded via Twitter, insinuating that it was American military intervention that saved France from Germany in both World Wars. Trump also seemed to suggest that the notion of a European army and the NATO alliance may be mutually exclusive. His language made it seem as though Macron and company will need to choose one or the other.
Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2018
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was also in attendance for the ceremony over the weekend, didn’t comment specifically on President Trump’s remarks regarding her nation’s involvement in either World War. Instead, she echoed Macron’s earlier statements about the need for a European army that could end their reliance on the American defense apparatus.
“We should also work on the vision of one day creating a genuine European army,” Merkel said. “The times in which we could unconditionally rely on others are over.”